Walter Shaw was born on June 24th 1895 in Bridge Street, Bradley Green, Biddulph, the son of Richard Shaw, a colliery labourer and Hannah Shaw nee Sherratt. Richard and Hannah had married at St. Lawrence Church, Biddulph in 1875. By 1881 they had one child Agnes Maud and were living in Bridge Street in Biddulph. On the 1891 census the family are still in Bridge Street, but the family has grown and now includes Agnes, 11, Hannah Eliza, nine, Richard Percival, five, Harriet Emily three and baby Adelaide Ellen aged five months. Richard is now age 33 and a coal miner.
The family lived at 67, Congleton Road in 1901, Walter was just five and is described as a scholar. There are now six children at home. Agnes Maud is now 21, Hannah, now named as Annie, 18, Richard Percival is 15, Miriam seven, Walter Stanley five and Ada five. Ada was born in 1896.
By 1911 the family are at 71, Congleton Road. The couple had been married for 35 years and have had nine children, six of which were still living. Walter was the second son, having an older brother Richard Percival Shaw. Richard and Hannah had two sons and seven daughters. On the 1911 census Walter is described as “coal miner take off underground”, he was 15 years old. His father was an electric labourer at the coal and iron works. Living at home now was Margery Miriam, 17, Walter and Sarah May, eight.
Walter was still employed as a miner when he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards. Mystery surrounds which battalion he enrolled in. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission tells us it was the 4th battalion but his medal card records the 3rd battalion. However both battalions have similar military histories.
On enlistment the following description was noted: height 5ft 10¾in, weight 142 lbs, chest measurement when fully expanded 34½in with a range of expansion of 2½in. His complexion was described as fresh. He had blue eyes and light brown hair. His religious denomination was Wesleyan.
Walter enlisted at Macclesfield on September 8th 1914 joining the Grenadier Guards for a three year Short Service engagement; however on the same day he absconded from his unit. Walter was not apprehended by the local police until December 23rd 1915; it is unknown where he was during this time. He was held to serve without trial; this decision was made by the General Officer Commanding law district 77625 on January 1st 1916, and his service towards engagement agreement reckoned from December 23rd 1915, meant a fresh start for Walter.
Walter was back with his unit in training which continued until he was posted to join his battalion in France on September 28th 1916. He served with the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards who were attached to the Guards Division. This division had been in France since July 1915 seeing action in the Battle of Loos and in 1916 the Battle of the Somme. At the time of Walter joining his battalion they would have been in the Somme district.
The Guards next action, and a baptism of fire for Walter to endure, was late September in the battle for Morval, when the Guards made a brave and very successful attack resulting in the capture of the village at Lesboeufs, a strong enemy position. By the end of November the enemy weakened by five months of battle were to withdraw from the Somme battlefield, retreating to the Hindenburg Line.
In mid-December, twenty one year old Walter was seriously wounded and a few days after on December 17th 1916 sadly Guardsman Walter Stanley Shaw died of his wounds. This was at the 34th Casualty Clearing Station. Close to where he now rests at the Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte, near Albert, the 34th Casualty Clearing Station was based.
His mother received the news of his death on Christmas Eve 1916. In the local papers the following reports appeared:
Died of Wounds : Private W. Shaw
News has been received by Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, 71, Congleton Road, Biddulph that their son Private W. Shaw, Grenadier Guards has died in hospital as a result of wounds received in action. Prior to his enlistment He was employed by Messrs. Robert Heath & Sons.
The relatives of the late Walter Shaw, recently killed in France, hope to attend a service at Biddulph Church on Sunday morning and the vicar (d.v.) will preach on Philippians Chapter 1, verse 21.
His name is found on the St Lawrence Memorial Board, the Churchyard Memorial and the Town Memorial. He is also remembered on the family grave at St. Lawrence: “Walter killed in action aged 21 years.” Walter received the Victory Medal and the British Medal.
Mike Turnock & Kathleen Walton.
With thanks to Mr John Shaw - great-nephew of Walter Stanley Shaw.